After another abysmal night for Pittsburgh Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen that saw him go 0-for-5 and leave a small village on the base paths, the Pittsburgh Pirates may have gone past the point of waiting for McCutchen to bounce back from a bad 2016 season.

Instead, they must realize that Andrew McCutchen isn’t in a slump.

As painful as this is to say, because I love everything McCutchen brings to the city of Pittsburgh, McCutchen just simply isn’t a good baseball player right now.

He’s performing under replacement level with a -0.1 WAR and there is nothing about him at the plate right now that would suggest a turnaround is coming anytime soon.

Quite simply, McCutchen has hit rock bottom in his career.

When the likes of John Jaso and others are out producing a former MVP, something is clearly wrong.

McCutchen promised a monster season this year after struggling in 2016. At this point, the Pirates would be happy with an occasional productive game.

Is there any hope to turn things around?

Ugly, Ugly, Ugly

McCutchen sits here on May 24, posting a .200/.271/.359 slash line.  A whopping .630 OPS from your three-hole hitter is a big reason why the Pirates are sitting in last place in a bad division. Every number McCutchen shows in his stat line this season represents a career low.

The numbers look even worse when you look at the month of May. In the past 21 games, McCutchen sports a .160/.225/.298 line.  Yes, he is slugging just .298 in the past three weeks.

McCutchen has also been terrible on the road where he has just hit .173, although five of his six homers have come away from PNC Park.

It’s also not a case of bad luck either as he sports just a .214 BABIP.

As hard as it is to say, McCutchen has been the worst player in a Pirates uniform this season.

Can’t Catch Up

The only semi-positive thing McCutchen has done this season is post a .333/.429/.738 line against southpaws. Four of his six homers have also come against left-handed pitching

Against right-handed pitching he has been abysmal with a .156/.216/.234 line.

If we look closer, the biggest problem is McCutchen is struggling against the fastball.

He’s hitting just .158 against power fastballs and just .159 against guys who sport a league average fastball. Those are guys who he used to feast on. Now every right-handed pitcher in the league owns him.

McCutchen clearly isn’t seeing the fastball well and until he does, he is going to continue to struggle.

Rally Killer

After leaving seven guys on base Tuesday night in Atlanta, McCutchen is hitting just .211 with runners in scoring position and has grounded into seven double plays already.

Yet, Clint Hurdle is going to keep penciling his name into the No. 3 spot in the batting order where he is going to continue to kill rallies until he gets straightened out.

Late in games, seventh inning or later, when your superstar is expected to deliver, McCutchen is hitting just .125 on the season. In high leverage situations he is hitting just .188.

Those are situations McCutchen used to thrive in.  Right now he is a liability in those same spots.

Pressing

At times in his career, McCutchen has had to try to carry this team on his back and he has succeeded doing so.

Hurdle can’t bench McCutchen. He has to pencil him in every night.

With guys on base, he is trying to make up for a bad start to the season in one swing, instead of just trying to make good contact at bat per at bat.

The result is pulling a lot of fastballs and rolling over them.

McCutchen has 170 at bats on the season and has only hit 24 line drives. He’s hit the ball on the ground 61 times, hit a fly ball 51 times and struck out 34. We are used to seeing him rip line drives all over the field. Now it is a rare occurrence when he hits the ball solid.

He also isn’t seeing the ball well as his walk numbers have seen a huge drop in the past couple of years.

In 2015 McCutchen had a walk rate of 14 percent.  That dipped to 10 percent last season and is under 9 percent now. That could be that opposing pitchers aren’t afraid to attack McCutchen lately, but it’s also a case of expanding his zone a bit and not being the same patient hitter he was before.

He’s pressing and it has had a negative effect.

It’s hard to blame him with the likes of Jung-Ho Kang, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and others out of the lineup, but McCutchen has to get back to basics.

What to Do?

Hurdle can’t bench Andrew McCutchen. He has to pencil him in every night.

If there were other options than maybe, but he can’t play Danny Ortiz and Jaso in the outfield every night. Hurdle has to sink or swim with McCutchen.

He has to let McCutchen work his way out of it.

In basketball shooters shoot their way out of a slump. In baseball, hitters have to hit their way out of a funk.

What Hurdle can do is drop McCutchen in the order.

There aren’t many better options to pencil in the No. 3 spot, but McCutchen is killing the Pirates right now.

Drop him down to the sixth spot and maybe that will take some pressure off or possibly light a fire under him.

Either way, the Pittsburgh Pirates are stuck with McCutchen’s slump.

There were a whole faction of Pirates fans who in the offseason promised to jump ship when the team traded McCutchen. That group has been awfully quiet now. McCutchen has no trade value at all.

The Pirates are married to him for the time being. They can only cross their fingers that he figures something out at the plate which helps bring the old McCutchen back.

As bad as the fans want to see McCutchen get hot, so does McCutchen.

It’s no fun taking the field every night knowing you’ve hit rock bottom.

Image Credit – Daniel Decker Photography

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.
  • JAL 1234

    Been arguing for a couple weeks to drop him down in the order. Last night showed the damage he is doing in the 3 spot–1st inning 2 on, no outs he hits into DP and 4th inning bases loaded, 1 out another DP. He now has 7 DP in 45 games. He high for s season is the 15 he into last season and it this rate he will fly past that around 100 games.

  • redrage97

    Welp i’ve been saying if he isn’t .250/.330 by teh end of the month he probably isn’t going to be much better than .250 at the end of the year and he really needs to be a productive .275/.350 with some power guy… at minimum. Just not there.

    Crappy part is he has to be in the line up pretty much due to circumstance.. so he probably has at least until marte comes back or meadows gets a call. After that he could be riding the bench if he doesn’t find him self.

  • 20Stoney

    Flip floor Harrison and Frazier at the top of the order. Freese 3, Bell 4, cervelli 5 and Cutch 6. It isn’t ideal but it’s better for the time being and gives decent righty lefty balance. Jaso could also bat 5th or 6th against right handers. Just about everything that could go wrong with this team has gone wrong

    • GLN53

      Move Mercer to 2 spot (bunt behind Frazier), move Harrison to 3rd spot, Freeze 4 hole vs. lefties, Bell vs. Righties, McCutheon to 6 and hope he figures things out

      • redrage97

        I’d like to see gift get more time at short filling that role, also looks to be much faster than Mercer to put pressure for the defense to get him out at first on those bunts. Mercer probably has more offensive potential as far as home runs and average but Gifts defensive ability is hard to deny and Mercer, other than some timely home runs hasn’t done much yet this year at the plate

        Not all the time of just maybe a couple times a week give mercer a day or two.

        I love that Gift is here finally gives us another real defensive option at short 🙂

  • Darrell E. Larocque

    It doesn’t matter now if he comes out of it or not! Our relief pitching is abysmal, our starting rotation looks like swiss cheese, and frankly the only way we can see our way out of this is by focusing on getting the best talent we can and the draft. Ivan Nova must be wondering what in the hell he signed up for. Imagine if we didn’t have him and he signed elsewhere!!!! This team is in full scale rebuilding mode RIGHT NOW.

  • Ikker19

    A low BABIP, like his .214, reflects “bad luck”… a high BABIP, like for example .410, would represent “good luck”…his career BABIP is .328…so this years .214 shows that he is hitting into a lot of “bad luck”…

  • af

    I think that McCutchen could use lasik surgery for his eyes so he can see the ball better and likely perform better as well

  • wvbrucefan

    I have been wondering if his eyes have been checked, haven’t heard anyone else saying maybe that’s the problem. Maybe he’s just one of those players that gets old at a young age